Let’s be real – no one actually knows what coxing is (or how to pronounce “coxswain,” which is actually pronounced “cox-in,” not cox-swain), so I thought I’d give a little brief for all you wondering readers! And yes, I know that saying “I’m a cox” has terrible implications. Embrace it.
Responsibilities of a Coxswain
On the surface, the coxswain’s responsibilities may seem simple. Some people literally think that my only job is to yell and steer. Sure, I do have to steer quite straight (because what rower, who is giving their hardest effort, wants to go off course and have to row longer than they have to?), and I also have to be assertive. I don’t necessarily yell.. and, I have a microphone, so that’s plain unnecessary.
The coxswain, in my humble opinion, is more like an inspirational and instructional leader. The title is really what you make it, and the responsibilities vary with what your team needs. One team may need more direct instruction (like, “sit up straight,” “let’s move on the drive together,”) while others are looking for inspiration throughout the practice and race (like, “we’re moving two seats up on our opponent,” etc) – most of the time, teams need both, but in different quantities.
Being a coxswain means being able to know what type of cox to be, and being flexible and knowledgable in every situation. It’s a damn hard job – and also a very rewarding one. Oh, and you have to be functional and keep your crew safe (did I mention steering includes dodging huge objects in pitch black, like floating trees?) at 5 in the morning.
You have to gain the respect of your crew, since you’re not actually rowing. The rowers are carrying your dead weight… so, you don’t want it to be ‘dead’! You have to contribute (as illustrated in the above paragraph), and make yourself what we like to call the 9th seat of the boat (or 5th seat, if you’re coxing a 4). You still own a seat, and you’re just as much of a member as the rowers.
So, why the weight?
Being small is an obvious necessity if you’re the one being pulled by your rowers, but there’s also an effort to have some ‘standardization’ across all coxes. In other words, there’s a minimum a coxswain must weigh to be eligible to cox in a race. If a coxswain is below that weight limit, they must hold extra weight, usually given in the form of ludicrous sand bags. Therefore, every cox makes an effort to be right on weight, because holding a sandbag is ridiculous, and because you know all other coxes are aiming for the same thing. You all want to be on an even playing field, and not lend any extra baggage to the race ahead!
Have any questions about coxing? Leave a comment!